RetailVision Spring 98 drew hundreds of vendors and distributors to the Century Plaza Hotel in Beverly Hills to reveal what products will be on offer to the retail channel between now and Christmas.
This year's show held between 31 March and 4 April had a particular bias towards the European side of business.
Bill Mackay, general manager of Ingram Micro's retail division, said: 'It's excellent. It's a big show and UK retailers can learn a lot from their US counterparts. They can see how to make a splash with a product in a store. A lot of the IT industry doesn't understand the difficulties of selling through retail. Here you can see where it starts. The US market is bigger and more mature, and at RetailVision you can see how a US retailer with over a thousand stores operates.'
The show was an opportunity for vendors and retailers to showcase the industry and close deals that will dictate what products will appear in the channel over the coming year.
Stavros Cademenos, international managing director of RetailVision, said: 'It's an important show for retailers. They can see what the vendors have on offer. But it's not only the products, it's also the merchandising and packaging programs - how the product looks on the store shelf. There are hundreds of vendors and retailers here, all focusing on what products will appear in the retail channel and how successful they'll be. It's an excellent opportunity to make deals.'
All the vendors were seeking either new outlets or retailer support for new products. Pilar Cloud, managing director of Broderbund Europe, said: 'So far it has been an interesting show. We are looking for possible new retailers in Europe, especially France and Germany. This show is good for us as the major retailers throughout Europe are here.'
Barbara Tsai, senior marketing manager at Arcsof, was at the show with the company's first foray into the hardware market with its video capture devices. She added: 'I've been to the show for a few years and it has really grown. This is the biggest one yet. If you have a new product, this is one of the best places to get it seen.'
The show included the RetailVision University, a series of lectures on the industry including the use of marketing, point-of-sale (POS) data and sales training.
US retailers that attended the show included CompUSA, Staples, Egghead and Radioshack. European attendees included Comet, Tempo, Exell (Belgium), Vobis (Germany) and Logic (Italy).
Almost every major vendor was present, and distributors included Tech Data and Ingram Micro.
PRODUCT TRENDS AT THE SHOW
The 'what's in store?' display at RetailVision 98 was a mock-up of a retail store with space given over to the vendors to display their products to retailers. AMD had a heavy presence, displaying a number of PCs that use the AMD processor, including IBM, Compaq, Acer and CTX. Products that were being particularly pushed were CD recorders, digital cameras and modems.
One product area that attracted a lot of attention was voice recognition.
Both Dragon Systems and the speech business section of IBM's software division were pushing the idea of voice recognition towards retailers.
Duncan Ross, European speech business manager, said: 'Speech won't replace the mouse or keyboard, but it will change the way people work - it's a complimentary tool. For retailers, it's attractive because it's selling well.'
Last year, according to ChartTrack, which tracks POS data, not including games, IBM's voice recognition packages were number two in sales behind Encarta. IBM CEO Lou Gerstner believes the future is speech. 'This research started 25 years ago and is IBM's longest continuously funded research project. Now it's ready for the consumer. Speech is the coming technology.
The product speaks for itself, and retailers see that. It just walks off the shelves,' said Gerstner.
Andreas Widmer, International sales director at Dragon Systems, said: 'It's about getting computers to conform to people, not people conforming to computers. We are not interested in competing with our rivals - interested in getting the idea of speech accepted by the public. Speech is not only about dictation, it's about controlling your PC.'
He added: 'This is the next internet. Opportunities are endless. At present, companies are internet enabling - in one or two years they will be speech enabling. It is a young industry, but it will be huge, and this is an opportunity for retailers to get on board early.'
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